Dear Mr. Martel:
I recently read your novel, Life of Pi
, and I’d like to express to you a few thoughts and comments based on my reading.
1) I greatly enjoyed this book. Beside one spot in the middle … just after Pi is stranded on the boat, before he becomes resourceful … I thought it was well written and interesting. (The spot I refer to above, though written well, I found a bit boring.) I am recommending this book to friends.
2) Your book made me think about the sea and its grandeur.
3) More so, your book made me think about the nature of storytelling. I think the book would have been much more forgettable if not for the last 20 or so pages, in which Pi retells his story. Right after I read this section of the book, I immediately reread it. I was stunned. When I set the book down, the comparison of the two stories is the thing that lingered for me. I won’t say as much as I could here, because I don’t want to give anything away to those who have not yet read this book. I will say—well done!
4) I also found your treatment of religion interesting. Pi practices 3 types of religion—Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. I would have liked to hear more about this. In a way, I was disappointed when Pi became stranded on the boat because I’d been quite interested in the first 100 pages of the book, hearing about Pi’s life in India. Despite the fact that Pi’s time in the boat made up the bulk of the story, I think the parts of the story I found most interesting were those before and after the boat.
5) I very much enjoyed your discussion of zoos, and how they are or are not harmful toward animals. (Really, your discussion centered around how they are not
harmful.) I have always loved zoos, but in past years have felt a guilt associated with my affection. After reading this book, I feel of vindication, like my love might be all right. At the very least, I enjoyed your descriptions of life as a zookeeper and as a zookeeper’s son. That is like a dream from my childhood that I didn’t even know I had, until I read this book. I know being surrounded by animals would have made me a very happy child.
6) I learned on Wikipedia the history of the tiger’s name, Richard Parker. This was a character in a Poe story but also a historical fact of disaster at sea and cannibalism several times over. I think this would make an interesting endnote to the text. But perhaps the reader is just supposed to be clever and resourceful enough to find out that extra detail on his/her own.
7) I think this book would be well-suited to an academic setting, probably high school or undergraduate. I think students would be interested in the story, and it would make for a great discussion on the art and practice of storytelling.
8) Secret confession
: When I started this book, I thought it was based on actual events. (Sometimes fake forwards/prefaces can confuse me.) I figured out that it was not, and then felt silly.